DAVE KIDD Liverpool winning Prem feels like destiny as one slip up and City will be toast
Hoa|April. 14, 2019
FATE is still in Manchester City’s hands but winning this thrilling title race now feels like Liverpool’s destiny.
If Pep Guardiola’s men are going to become the first team in a decade to retain the Premier League crown , then they are likely to have to win all of their remaining five matches — which would mean 14 straight victories in all.
That includes Tottenham at home next Saturday, straight after a Champions League quarter-final against the same opposition, followed by Manchester United in a red-letter derby at Old Trafford the following Wednesday.
Just one slip and City are likely to be toast. And Guardiola’s quadruple-chasers, two points behind with a game in hand, have looked less convincing than Jurgen Klopp’s men in recent weeks.
After defeating Chelsea, the road is now pretty clear for Liverpool — struggling Cardiff, doomed Huddersfield, Uncle Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, then a final home match against a decent Wolves side.
Whoever comes second this year will be the greatest runners-up in Premier League history. A consolation that will not mean an awful lot. Dave Kidd - Chief Sports Writer
Liverpool now look very likely to finish this Premier League campaign with just one single defeat to their name. If they don’t win the title with that record, then they certainly won’t have bottled it.
Whoever comes second this year will be the greatest runners-up in Premier League history.
A consolation that will not mean an awful lot.
But there has never been so little margin for error, so little wriggle-room.
Guardiola and Klopp are staring each other out long and hard and neither has blinked for weeks.
T his visit from Chelsea was Liverpool’s final acid test in their quest for a first title in 29 years and they passed it in impressive style.
They exorcised the ghost of Demba Ba, who capitalised on Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip to deny them in this fixture the last time they staged a serious assault on the title in 2014.
And after a series of fortuitous wins in recent weeks, there was nothing lucky about this, as they wore down one of the best of the also-rans and pounced with a rapid one-two.
One dinked pass from Jordan Henderson to an unmarked Sadio Mane at the far post and one brilliant arrowed shot from Mo Salah and Anfield went from tension to rapture inside two-and-a-half minutes.
Salah had been the target of some vile chants from Chelsea fans before their Europa League match in Prague on Thursday night but the Egyptian forward yesterday showed those cretins exactly what class looks like.
Jamie Carragher was waving his pom-poms in the Sky commentary box and Klopp, who had been conducting the choir on the touchline, punched the air several times at the final whistle and again as he saluted the Kop, knowing full well how significant this win was.
This was Liverpool’s seventh straight win — a fifth in the league. Their wobble is now well in the past.
The Reds are unbeaten in 38 Premier League home games now, the equivalent of two entire seasons. Only Jose Mourinho’s original Chelsea team have bettered that in English football’s modern era.
There had been so many pre-match words about the Ba match of 2014 but it was all proven to be so much ancient history.
Raheem Sterling, who’d been a Liverpool player that day, provided the two cute finishes against Crystal Palace which put City temporarily back on top of the table earlier in the afternoon.
Then Salah, who’d been wearing Chelsea blue in 2014, produced what is likely to go down as one of the key snapshots of this title race with his brilliant second goal.
Chelsea were well organised but largely passive, especially at the start of the second half when they invited Liverpool on to them. You could sense a goal was coming.
This was a patient, mature and measured Liverpool performance.
Maurizio Sarri’s men only began to threaten when they went 2-0 down, sub Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard both squandering chances to reduce the deficit swiftly but after that, Liverpool were home and hosed.
Most bookies still make City slight favourites to retain their crown but the manner of this Liverpool victory felt like a momentum-shifter.
City still have more players of the highest quality, more creativity, more strength in depth.
But that might not be enough because Klopp’s men have been pretty remorseless over the course of 34 games — their only defeat was a narrow and unlucky one at the Etihad in early January.
They will be thoroughly worthy champions if they seal the deal from here.
And even if they don’t, they are certainly the best Liverpool team in three decades.